The November Booklist

I’ve recently (thanks to being a public library employee) discovered our free e-lending system.
It has been a game changer. We’re really intentional about what we sign up for—read: stingy, we’re stingy with the things we sign up for. I don’t want to be leaking money in areas that are not being used, or in areas that are unnecessary. For example, I refuse to pay for a gym membership when I much prefer pounding the pavement on actual pavement. (Daniel does however, have a gym membership because he uses it almost daily) We only have one tv streaming account, and our music streaming is a part of Daniel’s phone plan.
This year we downsized our phone plans, too. Anyway. The point is, why pay for downloadable e-resources when you can get them for free through our public libraries?!
Cue: BorrowBox or Libby (by OverDrive) or any number of the borrowing apps that will work when you sign up with your public library.
It’s changed my reading game. I can listen to audio books while I’m washing dishes or weeding the garden, or driving long distances. They’re not completely the same as cosying up with a paperback, but they serve their purpose all the same, and I am stoked to be able to access this stuff for free. Get a library card my friends.

Anyway. November was a good, albeit heavy, reading month. I’m looking forward to December’s Christmas novel to lighten it all up a bit more!

Here’s the November read list:

The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh
”Oh, you must try one, my dear,” says an elderly woman stuffing her library card back into her purse with arthritic fingers and a twinkle in her eye. “They’re so well researched. All the stories are just lovely. I couldn’t put this one down.” It wasn’t the first of Fiona McIntosh’s titles that had crossed my path this month, they’re popular and I was intrigued. I popped this one aside, and rode home from work with it in my bike basket.
I wasn’t disappointed. It contained the right mix of popular fiction with historical facts, doing justice to the Holocaust and it’s survivors. I loved its straight-backed protagonist and the ending was perfect.

Boys Will Be Boys: Power, Patriarchy, and the Toxic Bonds of Mateship by Clementine Ford
I cannot even, with this one. I listened on Audio, and while Clem is very, very angry, by the end of the book it really isn’t difficult to see why. There was one moment, where I was driving down the freeway listening in horror to the absolute injustice of men who have committed horrific crimes against women and have not been given fair punishment. It seems that this book was a punch in my already-aching justice-loving feminist heart.
It needs to be read, far and wide.
I’ll write more about this. I will. Because I know I already lost 80% of you with the word feminist.
But, ladies, remember this: the feminist movement is what has given you your right to vote, to decide whether you’d like to have children or not and to decide whether you will work inside the home or out of it. It wasn’t that long ago that we weren’t given that autonomy, and we should be grateful.
*puts the feminist soapbox aside… for now*

Beloved by Toni Morrison
I know I’ve probably harped on a little about book club. Or maybe I haven’t harped on enough, because BOOK CLUB! My girl gang is a book club and this makes my bookish heart so happy.
We gathered again to talk about this book, our pick for the month. We ate pavlova and as I licked the last of the cream from my fork, and stared at a flickering candle on the coffee table, legs tucked underneath me in my corner of the couch, I got to hear what was loved, what was learned, and what was gained from Beloved. And share my thoughts too.
This book is a bit hectic. I don’t love ghosty stories, and if you’ve ever seen the movie (it has Oprah in it, by the way) you’ll know it’s a horror genre. Which the book doesn’t fully portray. What is horrific, however, is the way people of colour were treated in that period, and the pain inflicted on families and generations and women. I always love the historical aspects of books, love to learn about our pasts, about different time periods and other peoples. Toni Morrison is a master storyteller, and this book is a classic for a reason. But go in prepared for discomfort.

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman
I needed a Fredrik Backman novel after Boys and Beloved!
Earlier this year I read Britt Marie Was Here and while this one didn’t quite captivate me as much (I got a bit tired of the imaginary world, I just wanted to go on with the story in the protagonists here and now) it was a reprieve from the heaviness, and lovely to curl up with in the evenings and make me smile. Everyone needs a granny like Elsa, and I think I want to be that kind of granny when I grow up too.

Next month I want to read at least two corny Christmas novels, and I’ve just borrowed Erin Loechner’s Chasing Slow to listen via BorrowBox.
What are you reading/hoping to read this month?


The October Booklist

October was contentment.
I’ve been making my way though a devotional book this year that is a compilation of Henri Nouwen’s words, and this quote sums up the month for me:

‘Every time we decide to be grateful it will be easier to see now things to be grateful for’

There is so much to be grateful for.
Finding my feet as a Library Assistant, getting to know regular patrons and learning the way each of the libraries run took most of my time and energy this month—yet being surrounded by books never ceases to inspire me.
I often leave work loaded with books, often ones I’ve come across during the day that I’ve thought my kids would like, and go back for at the end of my shift.

My love of picture books has been renewed, and I took a stack home to renew my kids’ love for them, too. We sat, for a few nights in a row, reading a book or two and feasting on the illustrations.
Our very favourite is Oliver Jeffers’ Here We Are. His illustrations are incredible, but it’s the pure heart behind this one that makes it a firm favourite.

Other books I read in October:

An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor
Encountering God in our every day. Outside of the confines of a church building, outside traditions we’ve appropriated without thinking, outside of the typical formula of Christianity that I had implemented without thinking for too long—this book wasn’t anything I didn’t know, but it gave me the permission I didn’t know I needed, to see God in the places I was already finding Him, and realise that they had been spiritual practices all along.

Inspired : Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans
I love the way Evans creates narrative from Bible characters, and brings them to life. I loved learning some of the context of Bible times, and understanding the Jewish way of reading the Torah—entering into midrash, open to interpretation, entering into the story, wrestling with meaning.
I love that Evans gives voice to issues in the Bible I’ve been uncomfortable about, and makes it feel like it’s okay to question, without being berated for my ‘lack of faith’. Some of what I read I am still mulling over, unsure about, and need to do my own research on—but I think it’s important to read things that stretch us, confront our ideologies and expand our thinking.

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe
This book is based on the true story of holocaust survivor Dita Kraus, who was charged with the role of secret librarian at 14 years old, in Auschwitz, after being sent from the Terezin ghetto in Prague. The library consisted of only eight books, but represent the will to keep learning and keep living, in the midst of unspeakable horrors. The afterword was my favourite part though, where the author recounts meeting with an aged Dita, and where her spunk and tenacity come alive.

Tell me, what have you been reading?


The September Booklist

Oh September. You are sunnier days, and cool nights. You are wildflowers and storms and surprise sunburn.
You are all over the place, yet beat with a constant whisper of warmer days to come.
I started working in my city’s libraries. There are four across our sprawling suburbs, and each one with its quirks, demographics and shelving layouts.
It’s overwhelming.
Not the patrons, whom I love, and not the shelving, which I find cathartic – but the sheer, heaving, growing mass of reading material available. I am well read. I’ve been a reader since I was a little girl, reading out the children’s library in my own home town so that mum would have to drive me to the next suburb’s library. Despite this, despite me being familiar with so so many titles of books and authors, and having read a lot in my lifetime, there is still so many books to read.

There are so many more being written, so many classics I haven’t heart of, so many titles I’m coming across that I must read, so many paperbacks with beautifully designed covers, so many new works of fiction I didn’t know about…

then there’s the horrifying knowledge that there is not, and nor will there ever be, enough lifespan to read all the books. So, I’ll plod along and read as many as I can in the time that I do have, finding patches of spring sunshine to distract me from this sad knowledge. And revel in the fact that I work in these spaces heaving with books, because actually – what a dream.

So here’s what I read this month:

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
This was our book club’s pick, and we have yet to meet and discuss. A patron happened to ask me to reserve this book for them recently (to whom I apologised, that I myself happened to have a copy at the time) because they’d heard an interview on ABC Radio with Min Jin Lee, and said the book sounds delightful. You can listen to the full interview here. The book is delightful.
It’s also a very long saga, that follows a dizzying array of characters across multiple generations—because of this I was never sure if I should be invested in a particular character because actually I may never hear of them again as the stories trailed on. What I did love was the history, the culture and reading in the stories the deep-rooted ways Koreans live. I wasn’t aware of some of the history between Japan and Korea, and I loved reading about the foods and jobs and relatives and customs of these fictional characters, trying to get ahead in Japan, after being forced to leave Korea.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
You guys. I’ve never read this before.
Of course I’ve seen the movie. Of course I know all the pop-culture references that came from the movie. I actually have a very vivid memory of sitting on my Grandmother’s fold out couch, in her spare room at the back of her house, watching this movie for the first time. I would have been no more than five years old. I had a sore tummy, and I really wanted mum and dad to hurry up and get me, but I’m assuming that The Princess Bride kept me entertained well enough until they did.
Anyway. This book is hilarious and William Goldman is a genius.
I laughed out loud the entire time. It is satire at it’s finest, and Westly and Buttercup came alive for me again but with depth and humour and quiet mocking.
How is S. Morganstern not a real person and Florin not a real place and this story not a thousand years old? Goldman. Genius. Now I am off to watch the movie again.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Did you know that Elizabeth Gaskell was a friend of Charlotte Brontë? That she wrote Brontë’s biography, and was a novelist herself, who published novels in and about the Victorian era? Move over Jane Austen. I’m kidding of course, Austen wouldn’t move over for anyone. Gaskell though, has a similar style and if you are a fan of old Jane, and Charlotte and literature from the 1800’s, then you won’t be disappointed. Except maybe about the ending, because we all knew it was going to happen, but I needed more. If you’ve read it, you’ll understand. I was surprised how modern this book felt, considering it was published in 1854, and how strong a protagonist Margaret was. She was no weak Victorian heroine that’s for certain, and I loved her.

So that’s September wrapped up!

What are you reading?
Please have a conversation with me about The Princess Bride!
I need to talk about this.


The April Booklist

Autumn is my favourite season.

The weather has just begun to change here in Perth, and while we’re still being dished some deliciously warm days, it’s the days that are a bit chilly and have me chasing a patch of sunshine that are my favourite.
The light has moved again, and the edge of my bed has the perfect strip of sun along it in the afternoons, so that when I curl up there on the weekend I can bury my feet in its warm patch.

I’ve had my eye out on secondhand marketplaces for the perfect armchair for an empty corner of our lounge room, and I’m imagining curling up there with my grey hand knit throw, and hot cups of tea. Summer reading is good, but I’m happy to welcome back the cosiness of Autumn days.

April book roundup:

1. An Echo In The Bone by Diana Gabaldon
After last month, I swore I wouldn’t pick up the next in the Outlander series. They’re too long. I get too involved. I live and breathe seventeenth century Scotland and America. My internal voice assumes a highland lilt and frankly, my shoulder is weary of the extra half a kilo I’m carrying around in my handbag with me everywhere. The only problem is, that I was gifted #7 for my birthday last. And it is shiny and gold.
I had to start averting my eyes as I walked past the bookshelf. No. Give it six months. Wait. Read something that doesn’t remove you from real life for so long.
My husband shouldn’t have left me alone. There was no stopping me. I devoured it in just over a week.

Gabaldon is a ferocious storyteller—multiple plot lines are interwoven, frantic and suspenseful. Sometimes I hate her for what she puts her characters through, as much as I’ve hated Shonda Rhimes during a season finale of Grey’s Anatomy. Gabaldon seems just as observant of the nuances of life and love as Rhimes, with the same amount of dry wit.

Thankfully, the next one doesn’t yet sit tantalising me on the bookshelf, and I’m avoiding ‘G’ in the fiction section at my local library until I’m sure my self control is in order.

2. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
I’m a feeler, and perhaps it’s getting worse as I get older and learn to love and embrace all the parts that make me who I am—serial cryer included. Or, Manning has a way with words that seems graced and breathed straight from heaven. The first chapter alone made me weep.
Manning is an alcoholic, a Franciscan priest, and a self-confessed ragamuffin—and though the book was written almost 30 years ago, it still speaks poignantly to exactly where we are in history now. I mean, to think this sentence was written before the age of social media: “The temptation of the age is to look good without being good… The dichotomy between what we say and what we do is so pervasive in the church and in society that we actually come to believe our illusions…”.
Manning speaks to our apathy, to complacency, to religiosity. His words speak to our ego, our people-pleasing, street-corner-shouting, title-addicted, clean-and-shiny Christianity and he bluntly scolds, berates and loves us with his words into real grace.
This is a book that needs to be on every person of faith’s bookshelf.
It was not an easy read.
I read it over the month in fits and starts, highlighting and scribbling in margins, writing out paragraphs into my journal. It is challenging and made me feel free and uncomfortable all at once.
The noonday devil of the Christian life is the temptation to lose the inner self while preserving the shell of edifying behaviour.” Um. What. Insert stunned emoji here.
I’m still recovering from this one, and I’ll be referencing it for ever.

3. Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
This one I listened to on Audible. I listened as I walked along the ocean, and when I went for runs, and when I was in the car driving alone. It’s another one that made me cry. Not just for the content—twenty years of research into shame and courage and vulnerability is incredible—but for Brené’s ability to lace these stories together, to help us to see, to draw us in to a bigger picture of humanity, and of ourselves. Her ability to write. The way she articulates all the nuance of humanness, and has me saying, “Oh my gosh, me too, me too, me too” and wondering how she managed to construct so many of my fleeting thoughts and feelings into actual tangible explanations. She is profound.

4. The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
This is another of Reese’s Book Club picks, the latest in fact, and the third on her list that I’ve read. It’s a beautiful piece of fiction set in 1930’s Malaysia, with a protagonist who accidentally pickpockets and as a result is taken on an adventure of wild dreams, ghosts, childhood love and the refusal to be owned or boxed by any man—amidst a mystery of deaths occurring from a man-hunting tiger. It is a rambling tale full of magic realism and Chinese and Malaysian myth and folklore and descriptions of food, which reminded me of novels like Midnight’s Children and Like Water for Chocolate. Easy to read, I was so immersed in the story, and loved Ji Lin’s sassiness, and Shin’s devotedness. It was a great way to finish school holidays, finding patches of sun and whiling away long hours reading.

So, four months in of mini book reviews and I’d love to know if you’ve read any of them?
Or if you have any recommendations.
I haven’t quite decided what to read in May, and I’m on a self-imposed book-buying hiatus because there are too many unread new books on my shelf.


The February Booklist

So, the second of (hopefully!) twelve booklist instalments.
My goal is to read a book a week this year. And to blog a little review each month.
You can find the January Booklist here.
I’d love you to leave a comment if you’ve read something that you think I’d love—recommend away!

This month hasn’t been super conducive to reading, but it also could be that I found that three out of four books a little bit harder to get through.
Also, it could be that I’ve spent lots of time working on a print devotional book that’s taken time away from reading too. And I may have spent too much time watching Gilmore Girls.

I am loving reading intentionally though.
Less scrolling, more reading.

I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a book. – J.K. Rowling

So here’s the February roundup:

1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Kya Clark is one of my favourite characters of all time. This book is poetic, very descriptive but immersive and beautiful. There is the perfect amount of tension in the plot, has the sweetest coming of age element, and it’s heartrending, mysterious, and beautiful. I flew though this book in twenty-four hours, and loved it.
Not disappointed by this Reese’s bookclub recommendation in the slightest (and let’s be honest, I had high expectations!). And, get to reading it fast, because I heard whispers that Reese is going to make a movie from it too!

2. The Library Book by Susan Orlean
I probably should have read this before I read Where the Crawdads Sing—it was a brilliant book, but not quite the thrilling read that I’d just finished! I do love the literary journalism genre and this book had echoes of Capote’s In Cold Blood. It brings to life the story of the Los Angeles Public Library and the fire in it that destroyed more than 400,000 books. Woven through that is a love letter to libraries in general.
It took me back to my own trips to the public library when I was a little girl, with my mum. I’m pretty sure I read through the entire children’s section three times, and I remember the day I discovered the Young Adult shelves. The library was one of my favourite places on earth, and the way Orlean describes library experiences evokes serious nostalgia.

3. Birthing the Sermon-Women Preachers on the Creative Process edited by Jana Childers
Each chapter in this book is an essay by a woman preacher, inviting readers in to her creative process, and then the chapter ends with a manuscript of one of their sermons. They’re American women from a variety of denominations and backgrounds, and many of them have decades of experience in ministry.
I found it so interesting and freeing reading about the different ways all these women prepare their Sunday messages—the way they engage with the scriptures, the way they mull over what they’ve read, the way they pray or listen out for guidance from Heaven, the way they approach the actual writing process (a few quoted Anne Lamott, so, obviously this book had my creative writer-heart!). Their inspiration, routines, disciplines and preaching methods were fascinating.
One of my favourite quotes (this book has been underlined and I’ve made marginal notes—it’ll be one I go back to time and again!). “As to the content of my sermons, I often preach sermons to raise the consciousness of those who feel they have an exclusive right to Jesus and to empower oppressed people to take their place at God’s “welcome table”.” – Yvette Flunder

4. Fasting by Jentezen Franklin
The title is self explanatory, but this book explains the hows, whys and power of fasting as a discipline of faith. I flew through it—it’s simple, easy to read, and made me realise again the importance of relinquishing food for periods of time, both for spiritual, mental and physical health!

So, that’s my February reading wrap-up.
I need more fiction (and less Netflix) in my life, gahh!